States With the Most (and Least) Student Debt

Print Email

Tabor College
Source: Wikimedia Commons

20. Kansas
> Avg. debt at graduation: $17,313
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 31.7% (17th highest)
> Median household income, ages 25-44: $58,614 (24th lowest)
> Avg. debt as share of median household income: 29.5% (21st highest)

The average student debt among graduates of colleges and universities across Kansas is $17,313, roughly $400 more than is typical nationwide. Excluding the 37% of graduates in the state free of student debt, the average debt per student is about $28,000.

Average debt is lowest among graduates of the state’s two largest universities, the University of Kansas and Kansas State University. Both schools enroll over 19,000 undergraduates, and the average debt among all graduates is below $15,000. State residents pay an average of nearly $14,000 less in tuition and fees than out-of-state students at public schools in Kansas. More than two-thirds of college students in Kansas are also state residents.

Charleston Sunset, South Carolina
Source: Thinkstock

19. South Carolina
> Avg. debt at graduation: $17,514
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 26.8% (17th lowest)
> Median household income, ages 25-44: $50,658 (7th lowest)
> Avg. debt as share of median household income: 34.6% (6th highest)

The average student debt at graduation in South Carolina is $17,514, which is about $590 higher than the average debt per student across the United States. However, 40% of all students graduated with no debt. The average amount owed for students who graduated with at least some debt is is $30,564, eighth highest in the country.

Whether it is due to the above average levels of debt or earnings potential in the state, South Carolina’s former students are more likely than most to be unable to make their monthly payments. An estimated 13.2% of students from the graduating class of 2013 defaulted on their loans within the first three years of leaving school, about two percentage points more than the national default rate for that class.

Kentucky
Source: Thinkstock

18. Kentucky
> Avg. debt at graduation: $17,591
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 23.3% (6th lowest)
> Median household income, ages 25-44: $51,422 (11th lowest)
> Avg. debt as share of median household income: 34.2% (8th highest)

More than 85% of students of colleges and universities in Kentucky are locals to the state. Nationwide, tuition at public institutions is often heavily subsidized for in-state residents. In Kentucky, out-of-state students pay an average of about $12,700 more in tuition and fees at public institutions than state residents. Still, tuition is on the rise for in-state residents. In the last half decade, in-state public university tuition has increased by an average of 17.2%, considerably faster than the 9.4% average increase nationwide.

Perhaps due in part to climbing tuition, the average debt among all recent graduates in Kentucky is $17,591, roughly $650 more than is typical nationwide.

Jackson, Mississippi
Source: Thinkstock

17. Mississippi
> Avg. debt at graduation: $17,748
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 20.8% (3rd lowest)
> Median household income, ages 25-44: $43,916 (2nd lowest)
> Avg. debt as share of median household income: 40.4% (the highest)

In-state tuition at public universities in Mississippi has increased by 22.6% in the last half decade, one of the steepest tuition hikes of any state and more than double the average increase nationwide. Tuition at the state’s largest school, the University of Mississippi, rose by 26% over the same time period. Increasing tuition costs are not likely helping reduce student debt among recent graduates. The average debt load among the 62% of graduates from four-year institutions in the state with student debt is $29,942, higher than the corresponding figure in the vast majority of other states. Including those with no debt, the per student debt load is $17,748, about $800 higher than the national average.

Detroit, Michigan ducks
Source: Thinkstock

16. Michigan
> Avg. debt at graduation: $18,174
> Pct. of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 27.8% (21st lowest)
> Median household income, ages 25-44: $55,190 (17th lowest)
> Avg. debt as share of median household income: 32.9% (10th highest)

The average college graduate in Michigan leaves school with $18,174 in student loan debt, about $1,200 more than the national average. Higher education is fairly expensive in Michigan. The average cost of tuition and fees at a four-year public university is $12,460, far higher than the $9,650 average cost nationwide. For out-of-state students, the expense is far greater. The average out-of-state student spends $22,380 more in tuition and fees than in-state students, the highest out-of-state premium in the country. This may be one reason for the low share of out-of-state students, which at less than 18% of the 2014 freshman class, is much lower than the 28% average nationwide.